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Nick Nolte on dropping acid and putting porno mags in Andy Griffith’s cop car

Nick Nolte in Graves (Photo: Epix)
Nick Nolte in Graves (Photo: Epix)

Welcome to Random Roles, wherein we talk to actors about the characters who defined their careers. The catch: They don’t know beforehand what roles we’ll ask them to talk about.

The actor: Nick Nolte started his acting career in the 1960s, working his way through the theater and a multitude of TV appearances before the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man made him a star. For the majority of his movie career, Nolte rarely stepped back onto the small screen, but after his acclaimed turn on HBO’s Luck, he began to keep his TV options open. He can currently be seen playing a former U.S. president in the new Epix series Graves.

Graves (2016)—“President Richard Graves”

Nick Nolte: Richard Graves is a conservative Republican that in his time went too far with his trying to make the American public feel secure, and he feels guilty now that he’s close to death. He’s presently much more alive with his actions than he was in the past, and he feels differently about certain things, which… I mean, it isn’t hard to figure that out, because we all go through life and say a lot of things that we don’t really mean. You know, he’s got to be on such a rhythm of truth with his supposed audience that he thinks he’s with—or his party does—that sometimes he goes against his instincts and goes with the party policy. And many times, that doesn’t work out, like with his position on immigration.

The A.V. Club: Based on the first few episodes, it’s an interesting blend of comedic and dramatic. It never lets you forget that it’s both.

NN: Yeah! By the way, I had them change the name of the gardener to my own gardener, who I’ve had for 40, going on 50, years. I had to talk him into becoming an American citizen. He never got that far, but he got his green card. And his wife got her green card, so they could both work, and they’ve got four children—they were all born in the United States, they all went to high school in the United States, and they’re all going to college in the United States. And I don’t think that would’ve happened in Durango, which is where they’re from. He chose to come onto my property because his father had worked on it, long before I owned it, so I said, “Well, I’m putting a roof on you, you teach me Spanish, and if we get along, you’ll have a job.” So I started learning Spanish. [Laughs.]

You know, when they come into America, they don’t know how to buy a car, for instance. He was running around in an old car, and I said, “You’ve got to get a good car.” “Señor Nick, I don’t know how to buy a car?” I said, “Well, I’ll show you. I’ll co-sign for you.” And I co-signed for a house, too. He lives in a nice Hispanic neighborhood. One thing we forget about Hispanics is that they’re family-unit-oriented as a culture. So it’s not all wild Mexican gangs out there, as is rumored. I just don’t know what the hell the economy would do without these workers, because I don’t know anybody in my age bracket… Well, I’m too old to work, right? [Laughs.] I should really be retired. But then you find out how much you get in retirement. I don’t know how you make it. It’s really rough!

It’s a lot to lay on the public at these political conventions and to try and get to the problems that the United States has, but I have personal opinions, and they’re not even talking near the subjects that are the major problems. Personally, I think it’s the 60 percent divorce rate we have, and the single parent raising children, either without a father or without a mother. You break that out, and you break the concept of the house and home. So they’ve been trying to do it, but they’ve never succeeded in drawing up the Bill Of Rights for children. It’s the only group that does not have any rights. In fact, a child is not even considered a human being.

AVC: That’s what my 11-year-old daughter tells me.

NN: [Laughs.] Well, there you go! And if she had a Bill Of Rights, can you imagine?

AVC: No. No, I cannot.

NN: But they have a right to happiness, they have a right to a father and a mother… And just because your wife schmoozes with somebody too much, you can’t go throwing the kids out with the bath water! And that’s the way the law’s tied up right now. Maybe there was a time that you could count on the American home as being the moral fabric center and that they would teach you right, but with the liberty of just divorcing without a thought, it’s horrible. In another couple of generations, we’re really gonna see the effect of this single-parent raising. And I think that’s the problem. That’s the disconnect. That’s the miscommunication. If a man and a woman can’t get along… [Sighs.]

I don’t know if we’ll ever approach that subject on the show. It’ll be interesting to see where we go, but I haven’t really looked into research to when they’ve tried to have votes on children’s rights. For instance, can you slap a child in public? Can you hit them if they’re misbehaving?

AVC: Well, it’s certainly frowned upon.

NN: [Laughs.] And how! A football player from Minnesota, he hit his child, apparently in the stomach, and then he backhanded him, and the whole grocery store got on him, and he went to court. Is that an issue we’d cover? I don’t know. In regards to school—do you know what’s the first elected office a politician can run for?

AVC: The school board?

NN: There you go. They don’t give a shit about these kids. That’s just how they start out. [Laughs.] I mean, I’m sure some of them care about the kids, but it’s ridiculous that that should be the first elected office they run for. But I know, believe me. I’ve been dealing with this for a while. I had a son that I raised all through high school and took a lot of grief for, and now I’ve got an 8-year-old daughter.

AVC: So now you’re dealing with it all over again.

NN: Yeah! And I’m finding it particularly tough to deal with the fact that our educational system now teaches every kid the same thing. It’s like rubber stamping!

AVC: Do you have a feel for how critics are receiving the series yet?

NN: I don’t think we’ve seen any actual reviews yet, but it seems like everyone’s enjoying it quite a bit. We’re in the process right now of really bringing it out. We’ll see. They’re not going to tell us if there’s going to be a season two until they contractually absolutely have to, and that’s the way it is. Somebody’s contract will kick in by December 1st and they’ll have to say, or else they’ll have to pay double. But it seems to be going quite good.

AVC: You’ve mixed it up between comedy and drama a fair amount over the years. Do you enjoy getting the opportunity to flex your comedic muscles once in awhile?

NN: [Laughs.] Yeah, and I definitely get to do that on this one! You know, it’s set up well, having him going back after he’s been president and trying to correct some of the things that he’s done wrong. It’s a pretty farcical situation to see somebody out there trying to do that, although what we’re seeing today in this election really tops anything that we can possibly do!

Death Valley Days (1969)—“Vic”
Riot (1969)—“Reporter” (uncredited)
Electra Glide In Blue (1973)—“Hippie Kid” (uncredited)
Emergency! (1974)—“Fred”

AVC: For this feature, we try to ask actors about their first actual on-camera role, and IMDB shows that yours was an episode of Death Valley Days.

NN: That was one of ’em. If it’s not it, it’s close! There used to be a casting director that would come and see this repertory theater company I was in, and he would cast me right out of the show. And they’d be smaller roles, but there was Death Valley Days, there was Electra Glide In Blue, there was Riot… I’m one of those extra reporters in Riot going, “Hey, Red! Red! Over here, Red! I’ve got a question!” And [Gene] Hackman goes, “Wait a second! Cut, cut, cut! These guys are talking over my line! Why don’t they just be quiet, I’ll pretend like I’m listening to ’em, and then I’ll say my line so they can go to lunch?” So they sent me to lunch! [Laughs.]

AVC: As it turns out, you’re actually in one of my favorite episodes of Emergency!

NN: Oh, yeah? [Laughs.] Yeah, it’s funny how you’ll sometimes see actors turn up in different shows like that. A career in acting, it’s a learning process.

When I came here to L.A. with the Bill Inge play [The Last Pad], the play went over well—it was jam-packed every night—and there’d be people like Liz Taylor and Sidney Poitier in the audience, but when they’d come back stage to say, “What a performance!” I wouldn’t open the door. [Laughs.] An older character actor friend who I had known for awhile, he came back and said, “You can’t do that, you dumb shit! You know, they’re coming back to thank you for the performance! For Christ’s sake, just stand there and say, ‘Well, thank you very much!’” I said, “Well, they make me so goddamned nervous!” You have to learn the hard way.

Winter Kill (1974)—“Dave Michaels”
Adams Of Eagle Lake (1975)—“Officer Jerry Troy”

AVC: You were in Winter Kill, and then you were also in Adams Of Eagle Lake. Was Andy Griffith the direct connection as to why you were in both?

NN: Yeah! I got to know Andy pretty well. This was after The Andy Griffith Show, but I played his deputy, and I kept saying to Andy, “I know you’re used to working with Don Knotts, but… I’m not Don! I don’t know how we’re going to fill that comedy gap.” And he said, “Well, something will happen.” So I filled our police car with Playboys and Hustlers. He was finding them everywhere! He said, “It’s really not too funny, Nick.” [Laughs.] But he was a great guy. I’d go out to lunch with him when he’d be out with his girlfriend at the MGM Ranch. He’d call me: “Ride your motorcycle over and have lunch with us… and then don’t stay too long!” He was a regular guy. And he liked theater a lot.

The Rookies (1974)—“Tommy”
Return To Macon County (1975)—“Bo Hollinger”

AVC: In another instance where you worked with the same actor in two projects more or less back to back: You did an episode of The Rookies with Don Johnson, and then the two of you were also both in Return To Macon County.

NN: Yeah, which was the very first film of Louis Arkoff, Sam Arkoff’s son. Don said, “We’ve got [director] Richard Compton. You play this role, we can take over the film and make something really good!” [Laughs.] We were doing quite well till Sam Arkoff sent this girl Robin Mattson down to replace Karen Lamm.

They fired Lamm, and all of a sudden this other girl was in the car, and right away she told us how bad we were and that we were badly behaved. So at one point, I… let one go. Silently. Ooh, she just collapsed. She goes, “Oh, geez!” and piles out of the car. [Laughs.] Louis had to go talk to her.

Sam Arkoff knew how to keep things budgeted in the right area. But I knew Donnie, and we picked up one day and went to a little country store in town. Donnie came over to me and said, “You know the guy that was in the store? He wants to ride in the back seat.” I said, “What, that kind of farmer kid?” He said, “Yeah! You know who that is?” I said, “No, but it’s all right if he wants to ride back there.” He said, “That’s Dickey Betts!”

AVC: From the Allman Brothers?

NN: Yeah! So Dickey rode in the back for a few shots. And then we hooked up with the Allman Brothers, and… then I think Donnie hooked up with a commoner’s wife, and then we were all in trouble!

AVC: Well, just the idea of you, Don Johnson, and the Allman Brothers hanging out would seem to spell trouble. Especially in the ’70s.

NN: [Laughs.] Yeah! Gregg [Allman] still looks at me to this day and says [Uncertainly.] “I know you, don’t I?” And I say, “Well, I don’t know, Gregg. I don’t know.” Those were the old days…

Heart Beat (1980)—“Neal Cassady”

NN: We had us a good time. You know, in fact… Oh, what’s his name? Beat Generation author, the one who shot his wife in the head.

AVC: William S. Burroughs.

NN: Burroughs! Burroughs came and stayed two weeks with us. So I had lunch with Burroughs every day. He had two assistants, and they dressed exactly like Burroughs, and they would ask questions like, “You know, Neal Cassady used to flip hammers all the time. Are you gonna do that?” [Flummoxed.] “I… I don’t know.” And then they’d be quiet for awhile. And then Burroughs would say something like, “You know, Nick, one time I got in a car with Neal in Texas. We were going to California. He didn’t say an entire word until we got there.” He’d throw out the stereotypes, which was good.

That was something that Arthur Krim, the head of United Artists, wanted. He called me in to ask me if I thought it was time for a Beat Generation film. And I said, “Yeah, I think so! I mean, the public still doesn’t really know they exist. The word is out, Jack’s books are out there, but to know a little more about it would be good.” And he said, “Well, Carolyn Cassady has written a book, and John Byrum is going to direct, but there’s a problem. He thinks you’re just the kid from The Deep. But he lives right over here in Hollywood, up above Sunset, so why don’t you go over to his house and convince him differently.” And I said, “Arthur, you mean… take him up on the roof a little bit?” [Laughs.] “Yeah, something like that!” So... I got the part!

I don’t know how many people knew this, but Arthur Krim was an in-house presidential advisor to [Lyndon] Johnson. And Eric Pleskow was from Austria, and Mike Medavoy was the Hollywood agent they hired for the front office. It was Eric, Arthur Krim, and him. And, boy, they had a run going. They’d just won the Academy Award with [Jack] Nicholson and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, which was a role that Kirk Douglas wanted to play. He owned the rights to the book. I had talked to Kirk because I wanted to play it, too! [Laughs.] But he said, “Well, my son’s going to do it with Jack [Nicholson].” I said, “But he’s too little!” I was just teasing, though. Jack did a great job. He had the charisma part of [Ken] Kesey.

Kesey was a giant man, though. He had a constitution that… [Dismissively.] Well, that’s not really the important part about Kesey. It’s the literature, and then his decision to go into the moment, to live in the moment. Robert Stone [author of Dog Soldiers, which was later adapted into Nolte’s film Who’ll Stop The Rain] would tell me about how they stopped by his house in that crazy bus and say, “Stone! Let’s go! Come on!” And he said he was running into the woods in the opposite direction! [Laughs.] When you look at that bus, you realize that at that period of time, it wasn’t hippie-dom yet. Nobody had seen anything like that. So they didn’t touch it. They were spooked by it.

You know, in the early ’60s, I was studying photography with Allen Dutton and Minor White—Alan Dutton was a professor of photography at Phoenix College, and I would carry their 8x10 view [cameras]—and Alan had been sent from Harvard from Professor [Timothy] Leary and Professor [Richard] Alpert a letter and these little crystal substances. He couldn’t find any teacher to go drop it with. He couldn’t find anybody at all. But I was one of his older students, so… we took eight trips to the desert, when it was legal. Then we had a kid in the photojournalism class, Manny Garcia, and he wanted to shoot a documentary of me dropping acid for Channel 3 in Phoenix, but when we got down to the hotel, the police were there. And he’s going, “You can’t be here! There’s nothing illegal going on!” And they’re saying, “There will be!” [Laughs.] So there’s a little-known story for you.

Luck (2011-12)—“Walter Smith”

AVC: Graves is actually your third TV series in five years, but you hadn’t really done TV since the ’70s until you joined the cast of Luck. What led you to take a shot at that series? Was it the writing?

NN: No, it was David Milch. David came up to the house and sat down and started telling me about the millions of dollars he’s lost at the racetrack and recounting the history of some horses and a character he knew, Jack Van Berg, who was still at Santa Anita. And then that sort of spun into a fascinating story he started telling me about this guy who had a lot of money but had gotten kind of in a monetary manipulative situation and had to spend the last five years in prison, and he was getting out of prison with a vendetta to get hold of the track and clean it up. And Van Berg was notoriously known for wanting to have a clean track, clean horses, so people didn’t have jumps on the horses, the stair rides, and stuff like that. And we were just going to get into that conflict, they were supposed to come to my [character’s] barn and talk to me about his buying the track, having me oversee a little bit of the regulations and stabilizing the race industry. But we didn’t get that far.

AVC: When we talked to Richard Kind last year, he was saying that the discussion about how the series was canceled because PETA’s complaints was overblown—that it was far more to do with the volatile Milch/Michael Mann relationship.

NN: Oh, I’d say so. Yeah, I think he’s absolutely right. It’s unfortunate that that had to be that way. It’s just… that’s not the way David works. I know I would go up to David’s office and talk to him about where the character was going. But then I think there was a disagreement about the first year and focusing just on the horses and not moving the characters along fast enough. You’ve got to get all that balance down. And soon there were a lot of people that were genuinely upset. So I think it was kind of an excuse, the PETA thing. I wrote PETA, but they never answered me. [Laughs.] So, no, I don’t think it was really their issue.

I don’t know of any horses that we had that died on us. There was one mare, but that wasn’t even a horse with us. They were moving her from one stable to the other, and they had a lead guy with a rope and another guy walking behind, and you know how you have to go up the little ramps to the next level. They’re wide ramps. A car or truck could get up them. But you’re going uphill a little bit, and there’s cement, but there’s a lot of sawdust, a lot of manure around, and this horse got halfway up and she reared up, and the front guy tried to pull her back down, but she reared up strong enough that she turned and pirouetted in the air. And when she came down, it was downhill, and she broke both her front legs. That horse… [Sighs.] I saw that. It wasn’t one of our horses, but you know those rumors just run rampant. So I think Richard Kind was right on it.

48 Hours (1982)—“Jack Cates”

AVC: What were your thoughts when you first met Eddie Murphy? Did you feel like he had a certain something?

NN: Walter [Hill] sent me to New York to meet Eddie Murphy. I said, “Well, okay.” I didn’t know who he was. He said, “He’s on Saturday Night Live, he plays…” [Dismissively.] “I don’t watch that thing.”

But when Eddie came down on the first day, he was great. Walter did a thing where he set up the shot, he had me walk out of the shot, and he points down the street and says to Eddie, “See that building on your right? He’s going in that building.” All right, so he goes up the first floor… and now he’s going up the second floor. And I see Eddie’s looking at this, but Walter says, “Just keep moving. He’s up a few floors.” Eddie knows there’s something wrong here, but he says, “Okay.” Afterwards, Eddie comes over and says, “Was he fucking with me?” I said, “Yeah, that’s what he does.” [Laughs.] But Eddie knew he was just messing around, and that broke in Eddie and showed him that it was gonna be fun.

I took Eddie up to my room right away and showed him this video game I had, and I introduced him to the guy that I worked with, my assistant. Eddie said to him, “Can I get one of these?” “Sure!” “Can I get the video game I want?” “Sure, I’ll talk to props.” And then about two days later, he’s asking me, “How do I get rid of my manager?” Because his manager was still there. And I said, “Oh, I’ll do that for you.” And he said, “Well, look, don’t piss him off or anything.” “No, I’m not gonna piss him off!” I just walked up to the manager and said, “Look, Eddie’s comfortable now, he’s relaxed, he’s locked in, he really doesn’t need you around anymore. You’re kind of a little bit of extra weight he has to carry.” The guy didn’t want to leave. He said, “I don’t want to leave Eddie!” I said, “Well, you’re gonna have to, or he’ll probably fire you sometime!” So the guy said, “Okay, I’ll go,” and he left. But by then Eddie totally understood who we were, what we were trying to do, and he just took over that role. He started adding things like “Roxanne.” [Laughs.] I liked him. He was a brilliant kid.

I’ll Do Anything (1994)—“Matt Hobbs”

AVC: How was the experience of doing I’ll Do Anything? It’s well-documented that there were originally songs in the filmPrince songs, no lessbut they ended up being excised.

NN: Yeah, there’s a version of it with the music in it. I’ve never seen it. But we worked hard on it. They had a lot of people on that to help. It was such a strong little story about an actor and a father and a daughter, and what happened was the screenings. Jim Brooks was having screenings of it, and I think it was the L.A. Times that had gotten word that some of it didn’t work and some of it… Well, they said they were going to write a review of the screener, which really upset Jim. He said, “You can’t do that! I’m screening it to see how this works and what doesn’t.” In the end, Jim had to let the reporter into the editing room to watch, and that’s when he made the decision not to do it as a musical.

It was very ambitious to try to make that work. Jim went so far as to have the music start with Prince singing, and then somebody [from the cast] would come in. Or, like, with the little girl [Whittni Wright], Sinead O’Connor would be singing, and then the little girl would start singing and take over for Sinead, and then Sinead would take over again at the last.

Jim tried all kinds of different ways of doing it. But it wasn’t written as a musical, per se, and it wasn’t written as a comedy, per se. It was kind of in-between everything. It had elements of comedy, but it wasn’t a full comedy because of the music, and it wasn’t a full musical because of the comedy and the drama in it.

And the little girl, she was from South Carolina, I believe, and when we were auditioning the little girls, we had about five of them, and when it got to be her turn, she didn’t want to do it. She got real scared of it, and she started to cry. And Jim said, “You’ve got to go talk to her!” [Laughs.] So I went over there with her, and I said, “Look, it’s no big deal. You’ve got nothing to be scared about. We’re simply playing. And I’m playing like I’m your father and you’re my daughter. But there’s nothing to be scared about, and the only thing that’s important is to have fun.” So she kind of bought into that, and she went back, and she got the role. She was just a great little personality with a Southern drawl.

Well, toward about a fourth of the way into the film, Jim was working on me about getting this delivery on a line, and I struggled with it, and she said, “Jim, I can do it. Nick can’t do it, but I can do it.” [Laughs.] She was great. She was a great little girl to work with.

So, yeah, that’s kind of the history of it. And I know there are copies of it with the music, but I don’t really have a desire to see it if it doesn’t work. Jim would’ve brought it out if it worked. But working with Twyla [Tharp] for two months was really super. What she would do was that she would have us put our hands on her hips, and then she would move, and we had to move with her. And then after she got us to move for a couple of weeks, she’d reverse it. She’d put her hands on us, and we would move. And then she’d videotape all this and find natural dance moves that we automatically made with our bodies, and that’s what she incorporated into the choreography, and that worked quite well, because you weren’t pushing for a full dance-career training of the person, you were just asking them to learn certain things. I don’t know if that worked for everybody, but it sure worked for me. And I’m not much of a song-and-dance man. [Laughs.] Even though I play guitar, I don’t do it publicly. But we found a way to deliver!

Affliction (1997)—“Wade Whitehouse,” executive producer

AVC: In addition to acting in Affliction, you were also an executive producer on the film. It probably has additional personal meaning for you, then.

NN: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Well, you know, Paul Schrader had approached me with it first. I read the script, not having read Russell Banks’ book, and I called Paul right after I read it and said, “We’ve got to do this!” And he said, “Yeah, okay, I’ll start looking for the money!” It took Paul probably about a year to raise the $6 million he needed to make it, and at that time I was involved in some other project, but I had just finished Russell’s book of Affliction, and there was something in the preface that really bothered me.

I said, “Paul, I’m not ready to do Affliction right now. I need a little time. Not much, but about six months.” And Paul said, “Well, this money’s not gonna wait, you know?” He got very upset with me. And I said, “There’s just something I don’t quite get.” And what I didn’t get was this little segment where Russell talks about fathers and sons sitting together, and the fathers are passing down their afflictions to their sons. I just didn’t understand that tradition. But the main thrust is that if fathers don’t say, “I love you, son,” because it’s not manly or something, it’s an affliction in a way, and it’s passed down. Francis [Ford Coppola] was trying to get me to do the lawyer film [The Rainmaker], and I said, “I can’t! Paul will shoot me. He will hunt me down and shoot me.” And he said, “Oh, I’ll call Paul, and I’ll tell him I won’t take you past the shooting date.” And you know Paul’s going to say to Francis, “Yeah, it’s going to take him two years!” [Laughs.]

So I had to go to Cannes, and… I can’t remember what the film was that brought me there, but I went there, I found out where this film was being sold, and I was able to walk through Cannes by going through the buildings and not having to go out in the streets, so I made it to where they were selling the film. And they immediately jumped up, wanted pictures, wanted autographs… [Laughs.] So I ended up sitting with the head of that studio all day, and we made sales all day! And the sales were sold because I was there. I found out that it was extremely rare that I’d done that. But the head of the studio said, “You know, Nick, we not only finance pictures, we make pictures, too, so if you’ve got a piece of material…” I said, “As a matter of fact, I do! I have it with me! Let me go get the script, and I’ll give it to you.” So I went and got Paul’s script, and I gave it to him. And the next day I saw him, and he said, “We’ll make this film for $6 million.” And I called Paul and told him I got the money. And he wasn’t angry with me then. [Laughs.]

It took about six months before we started on it, but by then I understood what Russell was getting at. I’d spent time with Russell up by his house, going around to different parts of that part of the country in New England, looking at where the barn might’ve been. You know, he could go right back to this specific place or that specific place, and he’d take me to this town’s bridge or that town’s bar. So I could understand the life of that character in Affliction. It’s not going to be a film that people are going to love to see. If you’ve ever seen it with an audience—and I have—it’s not a terrible thing, but it’s kind of a painful thing for the audience to go through, because they want the guy so badly to be able to love, but… he just doesn’t know how. So every time he tries, he fails. And the audience starts going, “Oh, no.” And then it’s, “Oh, no!” And by the end they’re saying, “Oh, Jesus!” It becomes very affecting.

You know, I talked Sissy Spacek out of retirement for that film. She’d already retired. In fact, she told me, “Nick, I’m retired. I don’t get those films from the studios anymore.” I said, “None of us do, Sissy. But there’s plenty of work out there.” So she did it, she un-retired, and I think from there she got an Academy Award nomination after that! You can’t quit too early.

I don’t see myself stopping, even though it gets harder and harder. Especially when you find out that you can’t really compromise because of age. It wasn’t 12-hour days when we were working on Graves—it was 15-hour days, and I only had two days off during the whole damned thing. So I was pretty beat up afterwards.

AVC: No doubt.

NN: Yeah, it’s tough to shoot a series. That’s why I started pitching Sela [Ward] from day one, “Sela, you’ve got to take this show over by running for Senate!” [Laughs.]

I Love Trouble (1994)—“Peter Brackett”

AVC: Lastly, you don’t have to go into specifics, but was I Love Trouble really as excruciating as has been implied?

NN: Oh, no, that wasn’t a bad deal at all. I made a couple of mistakes on that film, but that was a husband-wife directing team. [Nancy Meyers and her husband Charles Shyer wrote the movie, and Shyer directed.—ed.] But I did say the wrong thing to Julia [Roberts]. You, uh, don’t want to do that. [Laughs.] But the husband-wife team… I mean, I kind of got coerced into doing it, but I don’t regret it at all.

AVC: It always struck me as wanting to be a Howard Hawks film.

NN: Yeah, that’s exactly what it wanted to be. It wanted to be this whole stylistic ’40s thing. But it was kind of hard to pull off. You know, you’ve got to admit failure sometimes. [Laughs.]

I remember Dr. [John] Wilcoxen at the Little Theater Of The Rockies, after we did Luther and Thieves’ Carnival in summer stock. It was a couple of Renaissance characters, I was playing one of ’em, and it required sophistication. Not necessarily Shakespeare, but certainly a certain amount of sophistication. And I just didn’t have it. Dr. Wilcoxen said, “You must pick your roles carefully.” [Laughs.] And that’s a lesson that all actors have to learn: If you do have limitations, then you have to find out what they are. And if you find out what they are and avoid them, then they aren’t limiting anymore.